Line eager to bounce back from Ravens debacle

After struggling through September, the 49ers' emerging offensive line made steady strides to the point it was being lauded as one of the reasons for the team's 9-1 start. And then… Boom! The Niners ran into the Baltimore Ravens, who had nine sacks while ending San Francisco's eight-game winning streak. But the O-line believes that bad outing will prove to be only a glitch in the unit's progress.

Joe Staley understands if people take shots at San Francisco's offensive line and turn on the unit again. That comes with the territory after his group allowed a season-high nine sacks in a loss at Baltimore last week.

The O-line had made such big strides after its early struggles. But against the Ravens, these guys got beat on protection calls and were repeatedly outmuscled. Coach Jim Harbaugh acknowledged there also were a handful of situations when quarterback Alex Smith held onto the ball too long.

"That's just the way football is – it's always the offensive line's fault. It was. We didn't play well," said Staley, the left tackle and leader of the line. "We've got to do a lot better job just on overall execution. It's not something where all of a sudden we think we (stink) or anything. It was a down game and we didn't play very well. We know that."

Staley, center Jonathan Goodwin and right tackle Anthony Davis believe San Francisco will get right back on track this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, needing just a few minor tweaks on technique to avoid the problems the Niners endured against the punishing Ravens defense.

"We're not in panic mode or anything," Staley said.

Smith was sacked 14 times in a three-game span from Weeks 2 to 4, then only seven times over the next six games before being pounded nine times by the Ravens.

Smith shared some of the blame for how things went.

"It was kind of all the way around. Definitely a couple calls I could have changed and helped us out up front – definitely put us in some tough situations, the guys up front," he said. "Something we take a lot of pride in is when we get pressure, really beating it and making teams pay. I really felt like they were setting the tone on us last Thursday."

Right guard Adam Snyder is nursing an injured left hamstring and his status is uncertain – because Harbaugh has declined to offer an update based on not wanting to tip off the 2-9 Rams.

Chilo Rachal played in Snyder's place for most of the Thanksgiving night loss to the Ravens and Harbaugh's big brother, John. The linemen know they must adjust no matter who takes the field this week at Candlestick Park.

"We just need to make the corrections and go to work every day this week and plan on getting better," said Davis, a first-round draft pick last season who started every game as a rookie. "They're simple tweaks, but we've just got to do them."

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday he's still hopeful of having Snyder available to start Sunday, when San Francisco can clinch its first NFC West crown and playoff berth since 2002.

Goodwin, the 49ers' veteran center in his first season with San Francisco, knows how quickly things can turn in this league. He won his first 13 games with the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints two years ago before they lost their final three heading into the playoffs.

"Of course it's discouraging to have a bad game, but it happens," Goodwin said. "The key now is to realize what things went wrong and not let it happen again. I've still got a lot of confidence in this group. In some ways it's still kind of a young group. I'm sure we'll as a unit learn from the mistakes and improve and solve the problems."

Roman took accountability for the problems on the line against Baltimore – noting the short week didn't help the cause. San Francisco beat Arizona on Nov. 20 then played four days later across the country.

"I'm not going to make any excuses," Roman said. "You either block them or you don't. You either catch the ball or you don't. We didn't block them and we didn't get it done. It was really an overall issue. You never really can say it's just one thing. It's a variety of things and it starts with me. …

"The four-day week probably brought that to light more so than at any other time. I think we're settling into a good rhythm on a seven-day week of preparation. A four-day week – that changes everything."

Roman is committed to better preparing the 49ers' front five on short notice.

There's plenty of motivation this week. The 27-year-old Staley can't wait to go to the playoffs for the first time in his five-year career.

"Win, we're in," Staley said. "Personally, this is the first time where we're in total control of our destiny. I look forward to that."

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